By Pet Pro Supply Co. Featured Veterinarian,
Dr. Shadi Ireifej DVM DACVS
Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer at VetTriage
Trimming dogs’ fur with electric clippers is commonplace in professional grooming and in preparing pets for veterinary surgery. Professional groomers and veterinarians know their way around clippers and know the proper techniques to avoid any harm to your pet. However, that’s not always the case when pet parents choose to trim their dog’s fur at home!
In this article, Dr. Shadi Ireifej (a board certified veterinary surgeon) will review proper hair clipping technique for home grooming and also share some of the science behind skin trauma and infections on pets resulting from clipping.
Proper hair clipping techniques
First: some basic, practical advice for trimming fur:
- Prior to grooming, give your pet a bath with a neutral shampoo, taking care to avoid getting water and shampoo in the ears or eyes. Drying after the bath begins with a dry towel followed by a blow dryer, while also brushing the pet to remove knots and mats.
- The ideal clipper should be as quiet as possible, so as not to startle the pet.
- There are both battery-operated, cordless clippers and those that plug into the wall to maintain their charge, so choose the one that fits your space best. For easy, quiet operation at home, we recommend Aeolus’s handheld clippers.
- When shaving your pet, be methodical. A systematic approach not only ensures you don’t miss any spots, but also prevents cosmetic blemishes like shave lines
- Keep the pet still to prevent accidental trauma. Grooming-induced lacerations, dermatitis and abrasions are common, and are at a higher risk with wiggly pets! But, how do you keep your pet sitting still? Methods include administering sedatives (always check with a veterinarian prior to administering any medications to your pet!), manually holding the pet and utilizing grooming positioning accessories to help with pet restraint.
- Clip with the growth of the hair (as in, go in the same direction as that of the hair). This also creates a more smooth and natural look to the shaving.
- A brush can be used to help lift the clipped hair up for those moments where the clippers do not seem to be removing hair adequately. This also aids in acquiring a more even appearance to the clipped hair.
Remember: grooming at home may save money, but it’s not for everyone! Not every pet tolerates it well and not every pet parent has great grooming skills. Always seek the service and guidance of a professional groomer if you are not 100% sure of your abilities (or your pet’s patience with you while you learn 😊).
Here is some science on using clippers on your pets:
2019 canine study
It was found that 24 hours after hair clipping using a No. 40 blade, a significantly higher incidence of erythema (redness) and higher number of bacteria (Micrococcaceae) was found when compared to hair clipped using a No. 10 blade.
This is intuitive, and the science backs it up: using smaller blades means finer and more precise trimming, and thus less redness and less chance to spread bacteria. The larger clipper size causes more skin trauma and has more surface area for bacteria to colonize, so it presents a higher risk of infection. Naturally, it is much more difficult to groom a bigger dog with smaller blades, so just remember to keep cleanliness in mind when grooming bigger dogs!
2016 veterinary clinic study
Contaminated clipper blades have been cited as potential fomites involved in the transmission of pathogens in veterinary and human medicine. In this particular study, it was found that 51% of clipper blades sampled were contaminated with bacteria. It was also found that the type of cleaning solutions had a significant association with bacterial contamination, whereas the cleaning frequency, storage location, and practice type had no significant association with bacterial contamination.
What this means: pick your cleaning solution carefully! It’s the main factor in spreading bacteria in grooming. Use a professional-grade disinfectant every time.
2010 fungal infection study
Fomites such as brushes and clippers are known to be potential risk factors for the transmission of dermatophytes (such as fungus) between pet animals. Thankfully, the risk of this as a result of adequate veterinary clinics and pet grooming salons disinfection protocols is incredibly low.
Takeaway: if you choose to groom your dog at home, clean your equipment just like a pro would! (Take a look at our tool sanitization products).
There are plenty of excellent products out there for those who want to groom their own pets. The right set of clippers is just one very important tool used for this purpose. Clippers also come with their own risks, though, especially bacterial colonization on the hair-clipped skin. Using a smaller-sized clipper blade and using a potent antiseptic for cleaning the clipper blades may aid in preventing this. Additionally, adequate cleaning techniques appear to be highly effective against preventing fungal infections from clipper usage.
About Dr. Shadi Ireifej:
Dr. Shadi Ireifej DVM DACVS is the Chief Medical Officer at VetTriage. He holds degrees from SUNY Binghamton and Cornell University and has practiced as a veterinary surgeon all across the United States. Follow him on Instagram @dr.shadi.ireifej and subscribe to his YouTube channel (Dr. Shadi Ireifej).
VetTriage is the world’s foremost provider of veterinary telehealth services. With VetTriage, pet owners have immediate access to triage advice from licensed veterinarians. Follow them on Instagram @vettriage and Facebook (facebook.com/televeterinarian).
Recovery of dermatophytes in pet grooming tools from veterinary clinics and pet grooming salons.
Bağcigil AF, Ikiz S, Ozgür NY, Ilgaz A.
J Small Anim Pract. 2010 Jan;51(1):39-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-5827.2009.00856.x.
Evaluation of the number of colony forming units on the skin of dogs after clipping the hair with two sizes of clipper blades.
Messiaen Y, MacLellan JD, Pelsue DH.
Am J Vet Res. 2019 Sep;80(9):862-867. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.80.9.862.
Evaluation of Bacterial Contamination of Clipper Blades in Small Animal Private Practice.
Mount R, Schick AE, Lewis TP 2nd, Newton HM.
J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2016 Mar-Apr;52(2):95-101. doi: 10.5326/JAAHA-MS-6355. Epub 2016 Jan 25.
Shadi J. Ireifej DVM DACVSNovember 05, 2020